PeaceHealth cuts budget by $9 million, eliminates 81 positions

Tough times have prompted PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center to trim its budget by $9 million, about 2.4 percent, and eliminate the equivalent of 81 full-time positions.

Cuts to state programs and federal reimbursement rates for health care combined with an increase in the number of uninsured and underinsured patients led the Medical Center to do a six-month-long internal cost-cutting initiative. The reductions were achieved through a combination of layoffs, restructuring of staff and changes in the purchasing and usage of supplies.

Thirty-three employees have accepted early retirement offers and the hospital will lay off an additional 17 non-nursing employees. Combined with a partial hiring freeze and shift in workloads, the hospital has seen a reduction of hours equivalent to 81 full-time positions.

“While painful, these staff reductions will not diminish our commitment to safe, evidence-based and compassionate patient care,” Chief Operating Officer Stephen Omta said in a press release. “Healthcare is changing rapidly and we need to stay ahead of the curve and learn to live with less.”

Starting next month, direct care staff such as nurses will switch to working 8-hour shifts, rather than the traditional 10- to 12-hour shifts. Recent studies have shown that employee effectiveness decreases after eight hours on the job, Chief Nursing Officer Faye Lindquist said in the press release.

The process of switching to shorter shifts could take up to a year, as different departments figure out new work schedules, spokesperson Amy Cloud said.

Even with the reductions, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center is still the largest employer in Whatcom County, with more than 2,600 employees.

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